Ecological literacy (also Referred to as Ecoliteracy ) is the Ability to Understand the natural systems That Make life one earth possible. To be ecoliterate means clustering understanding the principles of organization of ecological communities (ie ecosystems ) and using Those principles for Creating sustainable human communities. The term was coined by American educator David W. Orr and physicist Fritjof Capra in the 1990s [1] [2] – thus a new value entered education; the „well-being of the earth“. [3]

An ecologically literate society would be a sustainable society which did not destroy the natural environment on which they depend. Ecological literacy is a powerful concept as it creates a foundation for an integrated approach to environmental problems. Advocates champion eco-literacy as a new educational paradigm emerging around the poles of holism , systems thinking , sustainability , and complexity .


Ecoliteracy concerns the principles of organization of ecosystems and their potential application to understanding how to build a sustainable human society . [4]It combines the sciences of systems and ecology in drawing together elements required to foster learning processes towards a deep appreciation of nature and our role in it. Systems thinking is the recognition of the world as an integrated whole rather than a collection of individual elements. Within systems thinking, the principles of organization become more important than the analysis of various components of the system in isolation. Ecological literacy and systems thinking implies a recognition of the manner in which all functions are defined. Systems thinking is necessary to understand complex interdependence of ecological systems , social systems and other systems on all levels.

According to Fritjof Capra , „In the coming decades, the survival of humanity will depend on our ecological literacy – our ability to understand the basic principles of ecology and to live accordingly. This means that we need to become a critical skill for politicians , business leaders, and professionals in all spheres, and should be the most important part of education at all levels – from primary and secondary schools to colleges, universities, and continuing education and training of professionals. “ [5] David W. Orrhas stated that the goal of ecological literacy is „built on the recognition that the disorder of ecosystems is a prior disorder of mind, making it a central concern to those institutions that purport to improve minds. In other words, the ecological crisis is in every way a crisis of education …. All education is environmental education … by what is included or excluded we teach the young that they are part of or apart from the natural world. “ It does not matter that it does not require mastery of subject matter, but the creation of meaningful connections between head, hands, and heart as well. [6]

Others have reiterated the urgency of ecological literacy in today’s world, where young people are faced with escalating environmental challenges, including climate change, depletion of resources, and environmentally related illnesses.

This generation will require leaders and citizens who can think ecologically, understand the interconnectedness of human and natural systems, and have the will, ability, and courage to act

-  Michael K. Stone [7]

With an understanding of ecological literacy, perceptions naturally shift. The need to protect the ecosystems is not simply a belief held by environmentalists ; it is a biological imperative for survival over time. This value will become a basic principle for priority thinking and action in a sustainable society. In the face of the increasing capacity of industrial systems to destroy habitats and the climate system , the explicit statement of the principles of ecological literacy – and the resulting awareness of the importance of living within the ecological carrying capacity of the earth, is necessary. Whether ecoliteracy can address the infamous value-action gap is unclear.


  1. Jump up^ Orr, David (1992). Ecological Literacy: Education and the Transition to a Postmodern World . SUNY Press, NY.
  2. Jump up^ Fritjof Capra, The Web of Life, Harper Collins (1995)
  3. Jump up^ Stephen Sterling, Whole Systems Thinking as Basis for Paradigm Change in Education, PhD Paper, University of Bath. (2003)
  4. Jump up^ (Capra, 1997: 89).
  5. Jump up^ Fritjof Capra, „The New Facts of Life,“ 2008,
  6. Jump up^ Michael K. Stone andZenobia Barlow, eds, Ecological Literacy. Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World, Sierra Club Books (2005)
  7. Jump up^ Michael K. Stone /Center for Ecoliteracy, Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability, Watershed Media (2009)